December 5th, 2021

Soccer afoot at weekend tournament


By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on November 24, 2021.

Soccer is once again kicking in Lethbridge.
That was never more evident than at the Servus Sports Centre last weekend as the 14th Annual Stephanie Gruca Memorial Tournament hit the indoor pitch Friday through Sunday.
Proving local soccer is healthy a mere month into the season, the locals made off with an impressive medal haul, including the LFC U13 team capping off the weekend Sunday afternoon with a 5-0 blanking of Airdrie to clinch the gold.
Also taking gold in their home tournament was the LFC U15 Tier II and U15 Tier III teams, while the U17 Tier II girls won bronze.
Medicine Hat won gold in the U17 division as a total of 17 teams from Airdrie, Medicine Hat, Calgary and Cranbrook took part in the tournament, which was sidelined last year due to the pandemic.
Last weekend, the 14th edition of the Stephanie Gruca Memorial Tournament returned in happily-noisy fashion.
“We haven’t had this since 2019 because of COVID,” said Kristy Lauzon, program coordinator for the Lethbridge Soccer Association. “It’s just getting the kids back out there playing and enjoying the game we all love. Just to hear the noise and the sounds and seeing so many people. It’s been amazing.”
Though the lobby of the Servus Sports Centre was bustling all weekend, it was a particular hotspot Sunday as teams were presented their championship hardware, followed by the standard team pictures.
“They were ecstatic,” said Lauzon of the players and coaches alike. “They were very happy with the way the tournament was organized and how protocol was still following Alberta Health Service and government guidelines. It was just nice to have the 17 teams come and play for the weekend and just to get to watch the kids play soccer.”
As the coach of the Tier II U15 team, Lauzon got a behind-the-bench look at one of the gold medal wins.
“There was some stiff competition all weekend, so it was nice to have our local teams win some medals, especially in support of Stephanie Gruca,” she said. “It was great to honour her again with our tournament.
“We had some amazing games, some close games that were so fun. It’s exciting to have the girls back out there.”
The competitive season started just over a month ago after Thanksgiving.
“We head to Regina in a couple weeks and then we have a couple more tournaments coming up in the New Year as well as provincials,” said Lauzon, adding provincials are the second weekend in March. “The competitive teams have been training twice a week. We paired up with The Bridge (Sports Therapy and Training), so we’ve got some strength and agility training we do with them on a regular basis. We can full team train and it’s nice to see the teams come together because you make such great friendships. COVID has just led people into such a terrible time, so it’s great to see the smiles and the laughter because you know this is where they can be carefree.”
The non-competitive house league teams have been going since Oct. 9, said Lauzon.
“We’ve had close to 1,400 players register for that. Our local house league is booming. We go Monday to Saturday and it’s busy in here from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
Follow @DWoodard Herald on Twitter

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